After decades of government propaganda and lies about the medical benefits of cannabis, the U.S. FDA approved the cannabis-based medicine Epidiolex last June and the DEA placed the drug in Schedule V (versus the restrictive Schedule I, still reserved for cannabis itself). GW Pharmaceuticals has now announced that Epidiolex is available to patients in need in all 50 states, as The Hill reported:
Epidiolex, manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, is intended to treat seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy that begin in childhood. The drug is made of cannabidiol (CBD), a component of marijuana that doesn’t give users a high.
“Because these patients have historically not responded well to available seizure medications, there has been a dire need for new therapies that aim to reduce the frequency and impact of seizures,” Justin Gover, CEO of GW Pharmaceuticals, said in a statement.
“We are committed to ensuring that these patients can access this novel cannabinoid medicine that has been thoroughly studied in clinical trials, manufactured to assure quality and consistency, and is eligible to be covered by insurance for appropriate patients,” Gover said.
Big Pharma’s embrace of cannabis-based medicines is a double-edged sword for the cannabis community and industry. First of all, let’s celebrate the fact that some patients in prohibition states can now get the relief that they need. However, we must remain mindful that Big Pharma, like most business interest groups, is about making revenue for their shareholders, so we must be vigilant against any moves made to overturn existing state cannabis programs.
Additionally, as we move forward with reforms state by state, and nationally, we need to ensure that personal cultivation remains a foundation for future laws. Patients cultivating for themselves or designating someone to grow for them, protect patients’ safe access and counters attempts to price gouge.
Pharmaceutical companies’ involvement with the cannabis industry could spur new cannabis products that benefit patients and consumers alike. For instance, Cronos Group’s partnership with Gingko Bioworks could lead to cannabis-based products that contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids, but constructed in a way to reduce munchies and paranoia.
It is imperative that the cannabis community remain vigilant when we see Big Pharma or other corporate interests like Big Alcohol or Big Tobacco enter the cannabis industry. We must effectively lobby and make our voices heard so that the foundations of the cannabis legalization movement, keeping people out of prison and ensuring safe access to patients, don’t get pushed aside just for the sake of corporate profits. If we have a fair playing field, then products like Epidiolex can actually raise awareness about the medicinal benefits of cannabis, opening up more products and opportunities that can improve people’s lives.
Learn the latest about the cannabis industry and network with top investors and entrepreneurs at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco this February 7-8. Be sure to secure your spot at the ICBC San Francisco, as the event is about to sell out, by purchasing your early-bird tickets by January 18th.